Musings: July 2018

Life Together gets messy.
People stand in our way at the kitchen counter and leave toothpaste in the bathroom sink.
Mired in the muggy heat of July, we mess up each other’s routines and call one another at inconvenient moments.

And yet, the truth is that we need each other.
We need the jolt that sends us careening out of the center of the universe and into another soul’s perspective.

Summer, with all its shipwrecked routines and glorious gatherings around picnic tables and marshmallow fires is the perfect season for reading Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just in case your eyes are busy elsewhere, I’ll share these favorite quotes, because that’s  what friends do:

 

Reading, Writing, and Rejoicing

 

One unexpected gift of the blogging life has been the warm connection with others who are also writing, and some of them even manage to publish books! It’s a great privilege to help them with launching their books out into the world. Michelle Van Loon’s  Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity explores her thoughts on the pilgrim life while sharing her own story, set against the narrative of wandering found in Scripture. I shared my review here along with my story of “pilgrim-ing in place.”

Chances are if you live in the crucible of ministry, you’ve given some thought to your soul-ish self, and maybe you’ve even felt the danger of losing touch with your real self in the course of a day’s work. This is more than just an academic concern, for the spiritual leader leads from the soul, but it’s easy to lose track of one’s own soul in the care and feeding of the souls of others. Ruth Haley Barton felt the insidious slippage in her own ministry and gathered lessons from the life of Moses as a lifeline back to herself and a vibrant relationship with God. In July, I reviewed the results of her gleanings which have been re-released in the expanded edition of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Transforming Resources).

Reading Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, I felt Jen Schmidt and the whole (in)courage team nodding and smiling their reassurance that true hospitality is nothing more (and nothing less!) than “an ordinary couple [making] a deliberate decision, intent on getting to know the people around them from more than a polite distance.” (2) In Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul puts a strong verb in front of the word hospitality when he urges Roman believers who were facing persecution to “pursue hospitality.”

Each chapter of Just Open the Door unpacks a different facet of the hospitable life with words of encouragement and stories lifted from Jen Schmidt’s own parenting, inviting, tail-gating, pot-lucking life. For every “have to” moment in your day, Jen invites you to switch the sentiment to “get to,” as in “Today, I get to change the sheets in the guest room.” A life marked by gratitude opens up the floodgates to all kinds of hospitality. You can read more here.

 

Day to day parenting decision are deeply rooted in timeless truth. #OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton and his wife Frances did not have children, but even so, I found plenty of wisdom to apply to my own parenting life as I pressed into Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy this month. Every decision that we make in the run of our ordinary days has roots in something deeper, or, as Chesterton put it, “There must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.” (165) May we find grace to lean into the practical impact of our theological underpinnings even in the day-to-day decisions that govern the way our home functions and they way we shepherd our children’s hearts toward orthodoxy.

Summer Ministry

Packing up the lesson visuals and the juice, the song flash cards and the c.d. player, the prizes and the fake mustaches for our church’s summer children’s outreach, it occurred to me that I can teach a room full of women for at least 45 minutes with nothing but a Bible  and my notes. Children’s ministry is exhausting. Truly. You need all the dogs and all the ponies, and a lot more charisma than lives in this 55-year-old carcass.

But then, God the Holy Spirit is a force to be reckoned with, and so I’m grateful for five days of living the blessing of being a vessel, holding the Truth and pouring it out for our own church kids and for a few who just don’t get it anywhere else.

 

Joel, Rohobot, Sena.jpg

These great teen leaders were a joyful part of the experience, and my prayer for them is that God would continue the great work He has begin in their lives.

God is at work in the humdrum and repetitive tasks we perform. This is the Way of the Cross.Gardening on the Hill

The green rows of growing things draw me like a magnet this time of year. The work inside suffers from neglect, but it will wait, and as hot and dirty as I get out in the garden, it never seems like work to me. Already we are enjoying salads of fresh-picked greens, and there are a dozen jars of dilly beans on my basement shelves. This month, I wrote a piece inspired by the quotidian task of piling rocks into a rusty wheelbarrow and the harvest of blessing that comes from simply showing up to gather stones.

Thank you for meeting here for words about the garden and the rock pile, theLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer blessings and the challenges. Thank you for the times when you have been that other “Christian who speaks God’s Word” to me and for letting me do the same for you,

 

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books listed in this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The books mentioned in this post have been provided by the publishers to facilitate my reviews, which were, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Leadership Lessons from the Soul of Moses

Encased in a body that you recognize in the mirror, your soul is the “you” that’s always been there peering back from your reflection. It’s the part of you that infuses all the roles you play (parent, spouse, friend, leader, employee), and it’s what makes those roles uniquely yours. Your soul is the place where you and God meet–or where the empty spot resides when you are sensing God’s absence and wishing things could be different.

Chances are if you live in the crucible of ministry, you’ve given some thought to your soul-ish self, and maybe you’ve even felt the danger of losing touch with your real self in the course of a day’s work. Jesus is the One who introduces the idea that a soul is something we can misplace:

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”  (Matthew 16:26)

This is more than just an academic concern, for the spiritual leader leads from the soul, but it’s easy to lose track of one’s own soul in the care and feeding of the souls of others. Ruth Haley Barton felt the insidious slippage in her own ministry and gathered lessons from the life of Moses as a lifeline back to herself and a vibrant relationship with God. Her gleanings have been re-released in the expanded edition of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Transforming Resources).

The training of Moses’ soul for leadership did not begin on the day he and 600,000 former slaves departed from Egypt, or even in the harrowing days of appearing before Pharaoh. Moses’ journey began much earlier when he fled his familiar surroundings, took himself out of the action, and landed in Midian to escape the murder charges he would have faced back in his home town. The forging of a life-giving connection with God was a lifelong process for Moses, and it will be also for present-day leaders who are willing to ask the probing question, “How is it with your soul?” and to live their way into a meaningful answer.

Leaders Are Refined by the Word of God in Solitude and Silence.

Barton describes Moses’ childhood as “convoluted” (36) and his unrefined, pre-Midian leadership style as “reactive and out of control.” (38) Fleeing was Moses’ first step into a solitude in which God used the days and years to “deepen [his] wounds into wisdom.” (58) God employed the burning bush to get Moses’ attention, modeling the necessity of “turning aside to look.” (58) In the silence and solitude, God spoke, and it was the Word of God that gave direction.

Today, as we take His Word with us into our silence, He will reveal insights we would miss in a hurried and distracted reading. Just as Moses caught sight of the bush out of the corner of his eye on an ordinary day and had the good sense to turn toward it, our own great sightings of God are likely to come because we’ve taken the time to turn in His direction and then to hear His Word when it comes.

Your Calling May Emerge from the Uniqueness of Your Life Story

Moses was initially derailed by his anger, but, ultimately, it was this passion for his people and his strong sense of justice that allowed him to transcend the person he had been on his way to becoming a leader God could use. Rather than fighting against or undoing your authentic self, you may find that, like Moses, in your leadership role you become even more of what God created you to be.

A Leader Learns Wisdom and Restraint by Waiting

Lesson by excruciating lesson, Moses learned to wait for God’s next word. Barton refers to the spiritual disciplines with the engaging term “spiritual rhythms,” noting how each is balanced by an opposite: work and rest; silence and word; engagement and retreat; stillness and action. The stressors of leadership drew Moses deeper into relationship with God. When a leader has learned to wait for God in the darkness, she is on her way to learning the wisdom of restraint that waits for God’s next directive when the way is not clear.

Wise Leaders Operate within Limits

As satisfying as it is to feel indispensable, it’s an expensive luxury. Moses’ father-in-law set him straight on this, advising him in the wisdom of delegation and exposing his responsibility to train other spiritual leaders. If you are experiencing irritability, restlessness, compulsive overworking, emotional numbness, escapist behaviors, or are feeling disconnected from your soul and unable to tend to normal human needs, examine your life for signs that you are exceeding your own limits.

Sustenance for Ministry is Found in Prayer

Just as Moses stood between God and his fractious people, so the praying leader lifts the concerns of others before God, and contrary to popular Christian culture, this intercessory ministry is the greatest gift we bring to our fellow believers. Barton offers helpful insights that address my own tendency to pray prescriptively, as if it were my duty to advise God of all the possible outcomes, and then to help Him in choosing the best one. As we pray, we are reminded over and over again of our own inadequacy to be for our much- loved colleagues in ministry all that the Lord can be for them.

Leadership Is Often Characterized by Loneliness

Because a leader often sees what others do not see and is called to persevere in the face of criticism and discouragement, the life of a leader is characterized by seasons of loneliness. Moses found companionship in God, and refused to take one step in the direction of the Promised Land without the presence of God. Sustained for the long haul of leadership by a vision of God’s goodness, Moses found too that the loneliness of leadership keeps the leader always seeking.

Whether leadership for you involves guiding a half dozen women in a friend’s living room or standing at the helm of a multinational non-profit, for the believer, leadership is spiritual, and it is soulful work. God invites leaders into the crucible of ministry as a soul-strengthening experience, and then He meets us there in the deep and tender places. True spiritual leadership originates in a soul that is making its home in Christ.

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Transforming Resources), simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Thank you, as always, for reading and for your soul-strengthening encouragement,

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.